Thursday, October 27, 2016

Junior High Reading Club:
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

I am having the best time with Junior High reading club this year!

Since its inception several years ago, I've been the assistant grownup, with homebase teacher (and reading club founder) Greg Changnon taking the lead.  This year, though, Greg has left the homeroom to to write, do special projects (the Author-in-Residence program, coaching the National Championship(!) academic bowl team), and to work with the Alliance Theatre as they bring his play Slur (co-written with his Paideia class) to the professional stage (premiering next week - how exciting is that??! ).  I'm now the official grownup-in-charge, for better or for worse.

Anyway, so far this year, reading club has been very small, with just 4-6 members.  The unexpected and wonderful upside of this is that every single one of these students is excited about the books and has lots to say!  We've met twice this year, and both times everyone had read the whole book and offered insights, frustrations, favorite characters and scenes for discussion.

Our first meeting was at the end of September, and the book was The Rule of Three  by Canadian YA author Eric Walters.  A "what if" survival thriller about modern civilization & society when computers suddenly stopped working (set in utterly suburban Toronto), it got students thinking about everything they use and own that depends on computers.  Yep, those smartphones wouldn't be so smart anymore.  Yikes!

So they read the whole book?  Well, I'd forgotten how long The Rule of 3 is (just over 400 pages), but no one was in the least bit fazed.  When I suggested our October book, Afterworlds, I'd also completely forgotten its length -- 600 pages!  As it turns out, no apologies needed. The club LOVED the book and both of its storylines (the novel alternates chapters between a contemporary teenager working to publish her first YA novel, and the text of her finished book).  We talked for much of the hour about characters, plot, and construction.  Wow.

November will be easy -- we're reading More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera.  The author will be here at school as the junior high Author-in-Residence, and reading club members will be having lunch with him while he's here.

Another reason why I'm loving these avid readers?  They voted to meet in December, despite the craziness of the end of the semester.  They all wanted a fantasy, and despite warnings of its length (400+ pages), they decided that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a must-read.

It's an ongoing challenge to find books that this group hasn't yet read but would still like to read.  My rules are 1) YA/teen genre (there's so much good reading that flies under the popular radar, no need to jump to the adult market yet), and 2) in paperback.  So far, so good.  Yes, this is fun stuff!

Below are four short videos we watched toward the end of yesterday's meeting, to spur thought and even more discussion.

~ ~ ~

Scott Westerfeld talks about his book

"Where I get my ideas."

Official Publisher Book Trailer

Not how our group envisioned the characters.

A Reader Review and Analysis

"Westerfeld takes self-referential to new heights!"

Reverse Psychology!!!

So duh, of course "Standerson" is John Green.  Too funny!

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